English Department at UNLV


ENG 460: The American Short Story

Course description

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This course is designed as a thorough survey of the American short story, from the early 19th century to the contemporary. The first half of the semester will cover classical American authors of the 19th and 20th centuries; the second half of the semester will place an intense focus on late 20th century and 21st century stories and writers. Major emphasis will be on developments of the genre, structures of the story, short story movements, and the transforming aesthetics and theory of literature as the short story has developed into a major American form. Reading for appreciation is uppermost as an expectation for the class, but also important is the discovery and practice of a critical language for discussion and writing about literature individual to each student, and which will require critical guidance and engagement by the professor and by the class.

Each class period should break down roughly as follows: one-third to one-half of the time will be taken up with lecture-presentations and guided readings by the professor. After a brief break, the second half or so of the time will be used for student participation and discussion questions assigned to groups or individually for presentations to the class. Some outside readings will be assigned in addition to the class assignment sheets and anthologies. Very important is to keep up with the core readings for the class and be ready to discuss reader responses to the stories. Any student who has difficulty with verbal expression in the classroom setting should inform the professor and be willing to present in office hours written comments and notes on the readings.

Grades will be based on two term papers, of about 1,500 words each—about 5 or 6 typewritten pages—which will require some outside library research; as well, there will be both a mid-term and a final examination. In addition, four annotations and/or reader response short-form written pieces will be required. Class attendance and participation in group discussions will be strongly considered in the final grade. Please be advised that missing more than two classes without a medical or other institutional excuse may result in a failing grade or in an administrative drop from the course. Rewrites of the term papers are possible to perfect the writing and raise grades, on a student to professor contract suited to the perceived needs of each student in the judgment of the professor.

Professor contact: Douglas Unger, FDH 619, 895-3405, douglas.unger@unlv.edu General Office hours: M & T, 1:30-3:30 p.m., and by appointment.

Required books:

  1. The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, Oates, Joyce Carol (editor), (Oxford University Press)
  2. The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction, Oates, Joyce Carol (editor) (Ecco-Harper/Collins)
  3. Eagleton, Terry, Literary Theory: An Introduction, (U. of Minnesota Press)